Words from the Writers

Today, I want to quote other writers on writing. They’ve all done this a lot longer than me, and with a lot more success. They’ve got a lot to teach beginners like me.

Alan Garner, on rereading his own books:

‘I don’t reread, unless I have to . Once my duty to the text is finished and it’s published, I’ve no interest in looking at those words for the nth time. The book must find its own way. I have to move on.’

I don’t like rereading my own work – mostly because I want to rewrite it!

Hemingway on not necessarily writing everything:

‘If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.’

Charles Dickens:

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”

We all know those books. Books that promise much, and deliver less.

Virginia Woolf, in a rather beautiful quote about revealing yourself as you write:

‘Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.’

Ford Madox Ford was both a writer (largely overlooked until recently) and a critic. He supported many up and coming writers, even as he felt they were making him obsolete. He said:

‘Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you’

I’ve been doing this lately – and it works. Everyone always tries hard on page one, but by page 99, the author has settled into their style and subject, and that’s where you get a real flavour of the books.

Shakespeare never wrote about writing. He did write these lines though, at the end of his life, as a farewell to a life of writing.

.
‘As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.’

In this speech, he asks for the audience for applause. Only when he has that, does he know he has succeeded. No matter how great the writer, they still need the reader’s approval.

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